Teenager becomes first minor to get lung transplant in Estonia

Heilika Leinus
, reporter
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Photo: Kristjan Teedema / Postimees

​A lung transplantation surgery was successfully performed on 15-year-old Valter from Põlva County 11 days ago. Valter is a cheerful and talented young man, despite his illness.

Valter, who lives in Valgjärve parish, needed the transplant because he is suffering from cystic fibrosis, ERR reports. Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic respiratory and digestive system condition that cannot be cured. The boy's lungs were also home to a bacteria that could be controlled but not eradicated.

Valter underwent the six-hour surgery to replace both of his lungs in the University of Tartu Clinic under the hand of Tanel Laisaar on February 5. The boy's mother said the surgery went well.

Valter weighed three kilograms and was 48 cm tall when he was born. While the baby boy seemed fine at first, Valter developed bronchitis at six months old, followed by bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the smallest air passages in the lungs – bronchioles. After that he was diagnosed with back-to-back cases of pneumonia. Doctors finally diagnosed him with cystic fibrosis.

The disease meant Valter had difficulty breathing and had to take a lot of drugs. He took antibiotics to contain the bacteria in his lungs three times a week, as well as inhalation drug ACC. Because the disease has left Valter skinny and short, he also needs growth hormones and tube-feeding. Valter's mother said the boy needs 30 helpings of special food a month that costs 400 euros. The children's fund and the Valgjärve parish government have found a way to pay for Valter's medical food.

Valter developed an air pocket between his lung and thorax in December. His right-hand side lung was compressed and could not be used for breathing. Doctors let the air out from the pocket by creating an opening in Valter's thorax.

All this has not left Valter idle. He attends ninth grade, pursues mental calculation as a hobby, and can independently take his medicine and vital signs. Valter uses an oxygen delivery device when his body is short on.

Valter is first among boys in his county and in fourth-fifth place in Estonia in mental maths. “I was doing maths exercises in first grade; that's when I learned I had a gift for it,” Valter told the “Ringvaade” talk show.